Norwich Sea Unicorns will take the field at Dodd Stadium in June

Norwich — The Norwich Sea Unicorns, clad in blue, gray and gold, and sporting a sea captain hat, will take the field June 21 for the 2020 season opener at the Thomas J. Dodd Memorial Stadium, but it remains unclear whether the team will exist beyond that season.

The 40 people gathered Thursday at the Kelly STEAM Magnet Middle School on Thursday applauded what the now former Connecticut Tigers and city officials tried to make a positive and festive announcement of the winning selection in the contest to rename the Short Season Class A Minor League Baseball team.

Team General Manager Dave Schermerhorn described the logo choice, and Norwich police Officer Jarod Nelson took the stage wearing the new home white uniform with a gold No. 20 on the back.

The name, logo and merchandise were rolled out during a presentation at the Kelly Middle School auditorium before a smattering of about 40 season ticketholders, city and school officials and media.

The name, Sea Unicorns, was selected from among the five finalists: Norwich Golden Roses, Narwhals, Sea Unicorns, Salty Dogs and Mill Mules. The Sea Unicorns design however, incorporates elements of other submissions, a narwhal with the captain's hat, and the traditional red rose always worn on one shoulder sleeve.

Schermerhorn told the audience team and logo firm Brandiose toured the city, visited key sights and met with city Historian Dale Plummer in narrowing down their team name and logo choice. Schermerhorn said the team wanted “something that would be uniquely ours, so that someone from across the country or even the world when they heard this name they would immediately know it could only be in reference to the minor league baseball team in Norwich, Connecticut.”

The logo features a feisty gray narwhal holding a bat with a harpoon protruding from the front. The narwhal is wearing a sea captain’s hat and golden jacket and sports a rose tattoo on its left fin.

Merchandise was sold immediately following Thursday's news conference, including a narwhal tusk sported by Senior Vice President CJ Knudsen.

The Connecticut Tigers arrived in Norwich for the 2010 season. Thursday's name and identity change, especially converting from Connecticut to Norwich, was launched to coincide with the new 10-year lease the team signed with the city in August that starts in 2020.

But hanging over Thursday's announcement was the uncertainty imposed by a controversial plan by Major League Baseball to eliminate 42 Minor League teams, including the one in Norwich and reduce the number of amateur draft rounds from 40 to 20. Teams and cities losing their Major League-affiliated teams could field one of the proposed low-level independent teams comprising undrafted hopeful players. But critics of the Major League Baseball overhaul plan have said those teams would have minimal economic and fan value compared to Major League affiliated teams.

Longtime Dodd Stadium season ticketholder Kathy Bryant of Lisbon attended Thursday's announcement, but said she didn't have a favorite of the finalist names.

"I don't care, as long as we have a good team and win the playoffs," Bryant said before pausing. "What do you think about 2021?"

Bryant bought a new Sea Unicorns hat. "I love it! I like the colors," she said. She planned to visit the stadium gift shop Friday to shop for more souvenirs.

The Dodd Stadium gift shop at 14 Stott Ave., Norwich, will be open weekdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturdays through Dec. 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Merchandise featuring the Sea Unicorns also is available online at GoSeaUnicorns.com. Season memberships to The Captain’s Club are also on sale at the Dodd Stadium Box Office or by calling (860) 887-7962.

Knudsen, who has been meeting with Norwich Mayor Peter Nystrom in recent weeks to plan the city's opposition to the proposed contraction, said the Major League contraction issue was for another day.

"We're planning for the future here," Knudsen said. "Today is an exciting day."

Knudsen said since the Tigers arrived in 2010, more than 700,000 fans have come to Dodd Stadium, and the stadium has hosted hundreds of other events, including high school and college baseball games and tournaments, car shows and charitable events. The Tigers have raised and contributed over $1.6 million in monetary and charitable contributions to the community.

He thanked the fans, sponsors and city officials who attended Thursday’s event.

“We look forward to a bright future for many years to come,” Knudsen said.

Nystrom said the new 10-year lease has been approved by Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, along with the city. He called the team a “wonderful partner” for Norwich and surrounding communities.

“It’s our mission, our goal to see that that partnership is sustained and goes forward,” Nystrom said.

c.bessette@theday.com

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